Weight Loss Warriors

Three Story City residents tell how a Lifetime Fitness Center program changed their lives.

Steve Gelder is a Type 1 diabetic who made a New Year's resolution to lose weight. Shelly Nibe was tired of not having anything to wear and found her joints aching more and more. Paul Hauer used the new year as a milestone for cementing his commitment to drop a few pounds.

Gelder, Nibe and Hauer Exercise

Steve Gelder, Shelly Nibe and Paul Hauer
demonstrate one of the exercises they did
as part of their weight loss challenge.

All three participated in Weight Loss Wars, a competitive program offered at Mary Greeley's Lifetime Fitness Center in Story City. Twelve participants received 12 weeks of classes, boot camp, small group and personal training, massages and nutrition advice. The 12 also kept food and exercise logs, tracked body fat percentage and measurements, and received wellness evaluations at Mary Greeley Medical Center. The winner—determined by percentage of total weight and body fat lost, inches lost, compliance, participation, and attitude—received a $1,000 cash prize.

Group programs such as this—with or without an end goal or a prize—are often a motivator for people looking to improve their health or habits. "That group mentality can be a good thing, especially if the group
meshes well," says Sarah Haveman, R.D., with Mary Greeley's Diabetes
and Nutrition Education Center
. "A support system is important."

The Weight Loss Wars focused on helping the participants make life changes rather than jumping on the bandwagon of the latest fad diet. It worked: Participants lost anywhere from 4.5 percent to 20 percent of their total weight, with many lowering cholesterol and blood glucose as well as discontinuing medications for conditions such as high blood pressure. The combination of sound nutrition advice—eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods—with exercise was key.

"A lot of times, people try the latest and greatest diet, but diets never work because if it is a diet, it will end," says Haveman. "For there to be true success in weight loss, it needs to be lifelong change, with changes you are OK with today and will be OK with in 10 to 20 years."

Here are three stories of victory from Weight Loss Wars.

Paul Hauer

Lost 58 pounds but gained a trophy

Before he committed to Weight Loss Wars, Hauer did some serious thinking: At 53, he would probably be the oldest and perhaps the heaviest to enroll in the program. But he was tired of being heavy, and the whole package—fitness and nutrition— appealed to him.

So he signed up, with a goal to lose 40 pounds in 12 weeks. He had already been exercising a couple of times a week, but was a little leery of the boot camp aspect. The results surprised him. "The whole thing was custom-made for me," says Hauer. "It pushed me to do the group stuff that I probably wouldn't have done otherwise, and boot camp was good because I found out right away I would work out much harder in a group than I would push myself alone."

The food tracking also helped. Hauer went down to 2,000 calories a day. He ate the same foods he normally ate, just less of them. He also received important instruction on the correct way to work out. "In my personal training sessions I found out I wasn't exercising correctly. I was doing the same machines over and over, so some of my muscles were really strong while others were not," says Hauer.

Hauer won the program, losing a whopping 58 pounds and nearly 20 percent of his body weight. Post-program, he has maintained his commitment, with an ultimate goal of losing 70 pounds. His cholesterol screenings show improvement, and he’s dedicated to keeping up the changes he’s made. "I think I'll always exercise a lot," says Hauer. "I signed up with my daughter for the next boot camp, and I'm still doing yoga."

Steve Gelder

Lost 45 pounds and halved his insulin use

When Gelder was 14, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, so monitoring his insulin, and in turn his weight, has important implications for his overall health. Even so, Gelder, who is a registered nurse in the emergency department at Mary Greeley Medical Center, found himself overweight, topping 245 pounds on his 6-foot frame. “I had been wanting to lose weight for a while and started in January 2011 on my own as a New Year's resolution,” says Gelder. "I'd lost about 20 pounds then, so the Weight Loss Wars was extra motivation."

Gelder found the variety of exercise options and the personal trainer especially valuable. "I like to be able to do the classes, do things on my own, and have access to the trainer," he says. "I ended up relying on my trainer and some of the other leaders, especially for nutrition advice, more than I thought I was going to have to."

Gelder lost 45 pounds, ending up just below 200, which was 10 pounds lower than his goal of 210. "I told myself I wanted a '1' at the beginning of my weight," says Gelder with a laugh.

Even more importantly, his insulin use has essentially been cut in half, and he feels better. Since the competition ended in late March, he’s kept up with the exercise as best he can, working out about four days a week and setting goals, including signing up for a 5K. He's maintained his weight fairly well and feels as though he now has the tools to enable a lifelong change.

Shelly Nibe

Lost 33 pounds and said goodbye to acid reflux

Like so many other people, Nibe's weight began to affect how she led her life. "I was pretty out of shape and not very active," says Nibe. "I quit doing a lot of things, I had a lot of joint pain, and I was frustrated with clothes—I felt like I never had anything to wear."

So she decided to do something for herself and get active again. After the first week of the program, when she eliminated processed food and diet soda, she found her cravings had subsided too.

The exercise part she found more daunting—both physically and mentally. "I did not want to work out in front of other people," she says. "That was almost a deal breaker for me."

But work out in front of people she did, going to Zumba and TRX, realizing that she could keep up just as well as everyone else. She also worked with the trainer and became more confident in her abilities.

"The trainer wanted me to try to do a pushup, and I remember getting really hot and sweaty and thinking I would pass out, but she kept saying I could do it," says Nibe. "The next time I met her two weeks later, I could do all of the things she set out for me that first day."

She found unexpected encouragement in the group setting. "All these people at the gym who are in shape always asked how I was doing, and
they still ask. The online friends I have in my fitness and food tracking
encourage each other too," Nibe says.

Nibe wanted to lose between 30 and 40 pounds. At the end of the 12 weeks, Nibe had lost 33 pounds—and since has lost seven more. For Nibe, exercise and food monitoring have turned into a habit. Her acid reflux is gone, and her mindset is different, too. "I can't believe all the things I can do," Nibe says. "It really was life changing."